Organisational Architecture

Organisational Architecture - what is it?

Organisational Architecture is "a theory of the firm, or multiple firms, which integrates the human activities and capital resource utilisation within a structure of task allocation and coordination to achieve desired outcomes and performance for both the short run and the strategic long run" (Burton and Obel, 2011a, 2011b). Today's complex, dynamic, and highly interconnected global economy has made the ability to design and redesign organisations critically important. Despite the increasing importance and relevance of organisational design, organisational theorists have tended to focus on descriptive and explanatory organisation theories rather than theories of design and change which predict and prescribe. By not focusing sufficiently on prediction and prescription, the field of organisation theory and behavior has failed to deliver insights that can inform practice and guide change for desired outcomes and performance.

Organisational theory is important for the design knowledge base, but it is incomplete in content and largely silent on the process of design and change. Organisational architecture, on the other hand, is "based on the premise that new theoretical and empirical knowledge can be used to improve organisation functioning and performance" (Daft and Lewin, 1990). In that sense, organisational architecture can be thought of as an applied science – a "scientific art" (Thompson, 1967; Snow, Miles and Miles, 2006) – similar to engineering in the physical sciences or medicine in the biological sciences. To achieve this status, we need to develop a theory for application, going beyond the current research focus in organisation theory and incorporating many other disciplines.

Our goal therefore is to contribute to the understanding of organisational architecture and change. Our way of achieving our goal will be through collaboration across different sciences, theoretical paradigms and collaboration between academics and interested firms.

Therefore, we find it also crucial to maintain a role of dialogue partner for executives and organisations in general.


Organisation – a socially constructed, goal directed, boundary maintaining, hierarchically differentiated, open system of human activity.

[In this definition: (1) socially constructed indicates that living entities interact in shaping and reshaping the organisation; (2) goal directed implies that although different components of the organisation may have multiple and different goals, each component has at least one assigned activity that contributes to the focal goal of either a specific organisational achievement or continued organisational survival; (3) boundary maintaining refers to the organisation's authorised routine of distinguishing between members and nonmembers; (4) hierarchically differentiated means that one or more hierarchical components have the authority to assign activities to one or more hierarchically subordinate components; and (5) an open system is a system that interacts with its environment.]

Organisational Behavior – a field of study and knowledge focused on the behavior of humans and human groups in organisations.

Organisation Design – [1, verb] the process of choosing the characteristics of the organisation's primary features (historically the characteristics of its strategy, core technology, and structure, but more recently also the characteristics of its employees, culture, and routines) that the designer intends for the organisation to possess. [2, noun] the outcome of (a) the design process, (b) the design implementation and maintenance processes, and (c) the effects on these processes of conditions or forces that cause the emerged design to differ from the intended design. [3, casual usage] the characteristic's of the organisation's structural features of (a) scope, (b) size and specialisation of subunits, (c) arrangements of subunits in terms of integrative and coordinative mechanisms, e.g., authority, consultation, and information flows, and (d) relationships with other organisations and collectives of organisations.

[Conditions or forces that cause emerged designs to differ from intended designs may include the technologies, internal political forces, regulatory constraints, societal expectations, and economic and competitive conditions that confront the firm subsequent to the implementation of its design.]

Organisation Science – the field of study and knowledge encompassing both organisational behavior and organisation theory.

Organisation Studies – a term generally used interchangeably with organisation theory, but sometimes used interchangeably with organisation science.

Organisation Theory – a field of study and knowledge concerned with explaining the nature and circumstances of individual organisations and collectives of organisations.

[In this definition: (1) an "organisation's nature" refers to the characteristics of the organisation's primary features, i.e., its strategy, core technology, structure, employees, culture, routines, and leadership, and the organisation's propensities and properties associated with combinations of these characteristics, such as the organisation's competences; and (2) an "organisation's circumstances" refers to the current level and direction and speed of change of its size, maturity, performance, and status with regard to survival.]